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How did Caribbean agriculture develop over the last twenty years? Were the development projects and actions based on well-defined and enabling policies that fit the context of the particular time? Not surprisingly, getting consensus to these questions is as difficult as getting consensus in the current agricultural trade negotiations. While government officials can point to a number of policy goals for agriculture at both the national and regional levels, the private sector may see things differently. In fact, many non-governmental persons have pointedly questioned the process of policy formulation
One may surmise that for the longest time, the business of agri- culture in most Caribbean countries seemed to be stuck in \u2018neutral\u2019. In fact, many reports generally describe agriculture\u2019s performance as \u2018stagnant\u2019, or \u2018no-change in growth over the previous period\u2019, with trade liberalization blamed as the main culprit. One could also argue that if it was known then, that agricultural trade liberalization would be inevitable, and that its short-to-medium term effects would be generally negative, why were the appropriate mix of policies not put in place to enable agriculture stakeholders to respond? This is a com- mon question to which, answers rarely seem to satisfy.
The AgriView Newsletter will now be pub- lished trimesterly by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to provide information on, and to enhance knowledge criti- cal to agribusiness. It also provides a forum for researchers, policy makers and agri-entrepre- neurs, including small farmers, to share ideas and successful experiences that will contribute to the repositioning of the Caribbean agri-food system to one that is economically efficient, socially responsible and environmentally sound.
Policy has become the \u2018silent\u2019 partner in agricultural development. Experiences with the widening gap between the high promises of sci- ence and technology in ACP agriculture and the disappointing reality on farms have led to a con- sensus on policy being the key constraint facing ACP agriculture. Focusing on policy is an attempt to bring urgent attention to the fact that we in the Caribbean, inspite a long history of policy making for agriculture, appear to be repeating mistakes of the past. The international environment is one which places a high penalty on mistakes; agriculture can no longer afford to repeat its mistakes. Caribbean Agriculture must be brought into the 21st Century, quickly, starting with feasible and effective policies. This process can be expeditiously facilitated through net- working, the tool of choice in the 21st Century. Lessons learnt draw from the experience of the CTA\u2019s interventions in regional agricultural poli- cy networking in African regions.
3 ICTs, Agricultural Policy Networking and the CTA 4 The Policy Process
agricultural sector. However, experience indicates that in most of these countries, governments followed by the international com- munity, have shifted away from agriculture. Since the 1970s, many developing country governments have significantly reduced expenditures on agriculture. Leading international donor agencies to also reduce their assistance to agriculture. This in part explains the situation of agriculture today. Did these actions result from clear policy directives to reduce the focus on agriculture in favour of sectors - industry and tourism perhaps? Or were they simply the correct and automatic response to the policy doctrines which reflected the dynamics of the global economy at that particular time/period? Can any of us provide satisfactory answers to these pertinent questions?
It would seem then, that developing policy in itself cannot be the end product. According to Kirton & Bailey (2002), policy, simply defined, is a statement of intent, a prescription of what needs to be done to achieve a particular purpose and goal. It implies that the anticipated output would not have materialized without the spe- cific policy being implemented. However, having well defined policies, will not, on their own, lead to any change in the situation for agriculture. Policy is a means to an end, and for policy to be effective, the appropriate actions must be taken.
In tracing its evolution, Kirton and Bailey (2002) noted that historically, colonial relationships shaped agricultural policy in the Caribbean. The British directed policy in the British colonies, as did the French, Dutch and Spanish in their respective colonies. Following political independence, the former colonies established their respective government Ministries of Agriculture that had responsibility for agricultural policy preparation and implementa- tion.In 1975, following the formation of CARICOM in 1973, the
former British colonies in the Caribbean developed the first regional agricultural policy - the Regional Food Plan (RFP). Its main goal was to increase domestic food production as a means of reducing CARICOM\u2019s dependence on foreign food sources, espe- cially for animal and fish products, cereal and grain legumes. Among the explanations for this policy failure were a lack of commitment by CARICOM Member states, and a shortage of the required expertise to ensure successful implementation. In 1983, the Regional Food and Nutrition Strategy (RFNS), replaced the RFP as the guiding policy for agriculture in the Caribbean. This policy also met with limited success owing to similar constraints. In 1989, the Caribbean Community Programme for Agricultural Development (CCPAD) and an associated Regional Action Plan replaced the RFNS. By the early 1990s, it was evident that CCPAD too, would follow its predecessors, and in 1996 its was redesigned into the Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture (RTP), which currently oversees development and implementation of regional agricultural policy.
The above clearly proves our long learning experience of pol- icy making in agriculture, particularly at the regional level. These policy failures were deemed to result from their inherent weak- ness of process, and ultimately relevance. Attempting to influence the levels of agricultural output in CARICOM countries without
initially establishing close working relationships with the produc- ers at the country level is a recipe for failure. Also the failure to explicitly recognize that producers\u2019 decisions are conditioned by their perceptions of the policy environment, which is determined by individual national governments, could lead to policy disaster.
The context for agriculture has changed since the early 1980s, and has been evolving ever since. History suggests a 30-year cycle of policy doctrine changes in the past. The experiences in world agri- cultural markets over the last 25 years largely explains the empha- sis on market-led growth and the benefits of open market compe- tition; hence the push towards agricultural trade liberalization in all sectors and spheres of economic activity.
The rapid pace of globalisation and resulting changes in the international environment, have forced small developing states to confront critical decisions about their policy orientation as they attempt to minimize the associated negative costs and maximize the beneficial consequences of these developments. In general, policy options facing small developing states are conditioned by their natural, human and financial resource limitations, historical experiences and various bi-lateral and multi-lateral commitments. Regional policy makers repeatedly emphasize that domestic agri- culture is largely responsive to external stimuli. As policy makers, we have no alternative but to operate within our best guesses and our most accurate judgments about how the world works today. The changing context for agriculture thus begs the question of whether or not, in the scheme of things, our range of policy options are already pre-set by the external context within which agriculture functions.
Ensuring productivity and growth in primary agriculture is an essential pre-requisite for effectively sustaining the social, eco- nomic and political stability of Caribbean economies. Despite its declining relative contribution to gross domestic production, pri- mary agriculture remains a critical contributor growth in food and beverage processing industries, employment generation, foreign exchange earnings, income distribution, food security and social equity and stability.
As agriculture becomes more integrated into the complex legal and regulatory international system, domestic and regional agriculture policy must adapt in order to enable effective partici- pation. This adaptation must therefore, focus on transforming the policy framework (institutional and regulatory) to create an envi- ronment conducive to agriculture\u2019s repositioning. Without policy change and strong policy, agricultural repositioning will remain a non-starter. Without providing the requisite resources (skilled per- sonnel, adequate and well targeted financing for infrastructural, institutional and entrepreneurial development), sustainable agri- cultural development, which is competitive, equitable and envi- ronmentally-friendly, will be an elusive goal. And in this context, the focus on policy, through successful regional co-operation, assumes even greater urgency.
Agriculture of the Americas in the 21st Century is chal- lenged to be competitive and to produce value-added products that conform to food safety and agricultural health standards demanded by the market and consumers. Agriculture must also provide the base for rural prosperity in order to stem the migration of the rural poor to our cities. The key factors driving the
new agriculture will be globalization and market liberal- ization, new technologies and consumer preferences. So said the IICA Director General when he addressed Ministers of Agriculture of the Americas at their 2nd Ministerial Meeting in Panama, in November 2003.
Back in November 2001 at their First Ministerial Meeting in Bavaro, Dominican Republic, Ministers of Agriculture had already recognized that agriculture and rural life was at a turning point, and issued the Declaration of Bavaro for the Improvement of Agriculture and Rural Life in the Americas. The \u201cAgro 2003-2015\u201d Plan of Action, adopted at the 2nd Ministerial Forum, emphasizes four main dimensions of agriculture that require strong policy and concerted action to facilitate continuous reposition- ing and to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)1.
\u2022 Ecological- environmental dimension; \u2022 Socio-cultural and human dimension; \u2022 Political-institutional dimension.
The DG cautioned that success in repositioning our agri- culture and in developing the full potential of the rural sector \u201cwill depend in large measure on leaders who can promote change and harness the vast potential of the countries by helping to remove the anti-rural bias in development policy\u201d. Achieving the MDGs particularly that of reducing poverty by 50% in 2015 is a responsi- bility shared by us all.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) commit the international community to an expanded vision of development that vigorously promotes human devel- opment as key to sustaining social and economic progress in all countries and recognizes the impor- tance of creating a global partnership for develop- ment. Details can be obtained from the World Bank Website www.worldbank.org
The total Caribbean2 population is estimated at 22 million, ranging from a high of 9 million in the Dominican Republic to a low of 42,000 in St. Kitts and Nevis. Out of this total population, the rural population is slightly less than half (10.7 million), with Haiti hav- ing the highest number of rural people (5 million). The importance of agriculture in these countries is more evident for Haiti, Guyana and St. Lucia than it is for the more tourism dependent countries such as Barbados, The Bahamas, St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada. There is a direct relationship between the patterns of development in the rural economy, the demise of traditional agriculture and increasing rural poverty. The contribution of agriculture to GDP has been declining absolutely and relatively in almost all the countries, exacerbating an already high rate of poverty.
The highest levels of poverty are to be found in the rural, and particularly the agriculture sectors. This is underpined by the low levels of human capital development and high unemployment rates, particularly evident in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and Suriname, but also a cause for concern in the OECS countries. The poverty levels in the region countries and the attendant inequalities, persist at unacceptably high levels, ranging from a high of 65% in Haiti to a low of 19% in Jamaica. An estimated 13.9% of the pop- ulation of Barbados could be classified as poor, with most of those classified being females (59%) and single parents (57.3%).
Through sizable inflows of concessionary finance, official grants and net private transfers from abroad, the countries are able to sustain some of their development programmes, but are finding it increasingly difficult to do so. Low yields of monocrops such as banana, sugar and nutmeg and the challenges of competing in inter- national markets have resulted in a decline in the agricultural econ- omy in the last decade. In agriculture, economic pressures to increase export crop production, together with tourism construction and expansion, have accelerated the clearing of forests and the establishment of agricultural and urban areas on steep hillsides which are highly susceptible to erosion. This has led to a significant loss of wildlife habitat and the subsequent reduction of species diversity.
Tourism has grown dramatically however, and now represents more than one quarter of the region's total export receipts. However, during the last decade the countries have been challenged to deal with numerous environmental problems arising from tourism, including inadequate waste management, unsustainable water and energy consumption, the use of agro-chemicals to main- tain the proliferation of golf courses and gardens, beach erosion and degradation of the marine ecosystems.
Overcoming these challenges will be of critical importance to the rural territories, in particular, and the economies in general, as the countries of the Caribbean grapple with achieving the goals of sustainable economic development, and substantially reducing hunger and poverty by the year 2015.
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